Aches and pains become more common as we grow older. Loss of range of motion, becoming less flexible, moving slower than you did before, and joint pain are among the list of changes you might experience. Dealing with joint pain can negatively impact the quality of your life and prevent you from being active or enjoying the activities you once loved. The fear of an arthritis flare can lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
Luckily, the symptoms of joint pain can be managed with technology, pain medication, and modified exercises. There are over 250 different joints in your body that could flare up at any time. A joint is any part of your body where 2 bones are connected by cartilage. Learn more about the causes of joint pain in seniors and what you can do to keep your joints healthy as you age.
Causes of Joint Pain in Older Adults
It is reported that 1 in every 5 seniors over the age of 65 experience chronic pain, most commonly reported in the knees and ankles. This can be caused by a number of factors like regular wear and tear due to old age, previous injuries that are not completely healed, major surgeries like knee replacement surgery, overuse of a particular joint group during sports or heavy labour, or degenerative osteoarthritis. Joint pain affects all groups of people, regardless of socioeconomic status. Seniors are most likely to notice joint pain in the following areas.
Types of Arthritis in the Elderly
Arthritis is the inflammation of joints that causes swelling, pain, stiffness and uncomfortable warmth in affected areas. It is a broad term that includes osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and gout. Some of these conditions have more severe symptoms, but they all affect your joint health.
- Osteoarthritis is the most common caused by gradual breakdown of the cartilage or extra stress on the joint due to being overweight or being injured
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that has more severe symptoms that may affect both sides of your body symmetrically
- Psoriatic arthritis is caused by psoriasis, a condition that results in the inflammation of the joints and skin
- Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in many parts of your body including your joints and organs
- Gout is caused by sudden build-up of uric acid crystals in your joint that feels like sharp pain, and is a result of stress or another condition
Combat Joint Stiffness in Old Age
Cartilage is the connective membrane that surrounds the ends of our bones and prevents them from rubbing together. Cartilage in our bodies breaks down over time and does not heal or regenerate as other types of cells do. There are no blood vessels or nerves in the cartilage. We experience joint pain when we lose the cartilage that lubricates joints due to a number of factors. This causes us to feel stiff and makes it difficult to move your joints.
- Laying down for an extended period of time such as oversleeping or not getting up from the couch can cause your joints to feel stiff due to lack of movement
- Try to move locations or stand up for 5 minutes every hour to keep your mobility
- Being overweight or obese can add unnecessary stress to your knees and cause joint pain
- Knee pain is often caused by the natural deterioration of cartilage but can be accelerated by recurring injuries and overuse due to manual labour
- Regularly stretch out your wrists by flipping them and applying slight pressure until you feel a stretch in your forearms
What can Seniors do for Sore Joints?
You may experience chronic pain from your points or only suffer from intermittent flare-ups. Either way, you want to limit your painful symptoms as much as possible. Listen to your body and consult your doctor if you have physical limitations. Natural remedies and a healthy lifestyle can prevent joint pain in old age. Here are some ways that you can keep your joints healthy.
- Pain around your joints may be caused by pulled tendons or sore muscles
- Include a low-impact stretching routine into your day to prevent stiffness
- Your doctor can recommend physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints if you suffer from arthritis
- If you are overweight, you may need to consider weight loss to ease the stress on your hips, knees, and ankles
- 70-80% of your cartilage is water, so you need to be hydrated for your joints to function properly
- Try drinking a glass of water before each meal or at least once every 2 hours when possible
Exercises for Seniors with Limited Mobility
Staying active can be beneficial for seniors with joint pain and reduce some symptoms. Avoid high-impact exercises such as jogging or hiking that can add stress to knees and hips. Look for low-impact activities like yoga or water aerobics that will keep you agile but will not agitate your joints. Here are exercise ideas for seniors with limited mobility.
Seated exercises for older adults
Seated workouts or chair exercises are designed for older adults with lower body injuries or mobility issues to stay active. This works the core, arms, shoulders, and legs without the unnecessary strain that standing brings. Seated exercises strengthen your core and are great for seniors who have trouble with balance.
Water exercises include pool aerobics, water walking, swimming, Aqua Zumba, and more. They are forms of aerobic exercise that will increase your heart rate and get your blood flowing to every muscle group. Aerobic exercises are good for your cardiovascular health and can increase your endurance when practiced regularly. Water exercises are low-impact, and a great option for seniors struggling with balance or overweight individuals.
Low impact sports
This includes light stretching like yoga, tai-chi, pickleball, pilates, or walking. Low-impact activities allow you to stay active but do not put stress on your joints. Virtual sports, like Wii Sports, are a great form of exercise that can be modified to fit your range of motion. They can be done in the comfort of your own home and require minimal equipment.
Living with Joint Pain as an Older Adult
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing joint pain in the future. Staying in a healthy weight category, quitting smoking, proper rest after and stretching regularly are a few ways to keep your joints healthy. If you are unsure where to start, consider looking for an exercise partner or physiotherapist that can guide you in the right direction. Joint pain affects people of all ages but is more common in older adults. Finding ways to adapt to your body without sacrificing your current lifestyle is key to aging happily.